Copyright Jim Widner (email@example.com)
18 Oct 1994
On September 30, 1962 a major milestone in radio drama came to an end with the final episode of the long running series, SUSPENSE. Ironically, the episode was titled "Devil Stone" and was the last dramatic radio play from a series that had its roots in the golden age of radio.
What began as a "new series frankly dedicated to your horrification and entertainment" took on a life of its own mostly due to the talents of some outstanding producers and adaptations and original stories from the cream of mystery writers of the time. The golden age of radio was truly the golden age of SUSPENSE as show after show broadcast outstanding plays which were "calculated to intrigue...stir [the] nerves."
It was the series' first producer, William Spier, who set the framework of rules that was to stay with the show for most of its run. Mr. Spier determined that the series should deal with life-and-death situations established near the beginning of each play and then through the use of Bernard Herrmann's musical coloring and the writer's characterizations slowly tighten the knot of SUSPENSE. Many of the early stories were written by the mystery writer, John Dickson Carr. Others were by such fine writers as Lucille Fletcher, whose SUSPENSE play, "Sorry, Wrong Number" was turned into a major motion picture; Robert Arthur, Robert L. Richards, Morton Fine and David Friedkin. The series also drew from the mystery writers of the day as well as the horror writers of literature; writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Cornell Woolrich, Dorthy L. Sayers and H.G. Wells.
Many of the stories produced by Mr. Spier are now classics of the genre. Listen to the likes of "The House in Cypress Canyon" as a young couple encounters something in the closet of their new home, something horrible and dangerous; or "The Hitchhiker" in which a man driving cross-country seems to be haunted by an ominous figure, who keeps reappearing trying to get a ride. But what foreboding does the hitchhiker hold for the driver?
Another rule William Spier established was to make the series a place to hear the talents of Hollywood's famous actors. There rarely was a famous actor who did not appear on the series at some time. Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball, Olivia De Havilland and many others all made at least one appearance. The series had a generous budget from its network, CBS.
In 1948 the series had become popular enough that it was decided to broadcast for a complete hour, instead of the former thirty minutes. The actor Robert Montgomery was brought in to introduce the plays, replacing the "Man in Black" character and occasionally star in them. This format lasted only six months most probably due to the realization that the show worked best within a thirty minute framework.
It was at this time that William Spier left and over the years others came to produce the shows, each setting his own unique mark. Anton M. Leader, who came from producing another horror radio program, MURDER AT MIDNIGHT, added some lighter SUSPENSE stories which focused more on the central characters. Jimmy Stewart appeared in an excellent story about a paralysed war veteran who thinks he has found the man who imprisoned and tortured him. Fibber McGee & Molly appeared in a tale about a killer on the loose in "Backseat Driver."
Probably the biggest change in SUSPENSE came under the producing eye of Elliott Lewis. Lewis brought in comic actors to play serious roles. Actors such as Jack Benny, Red Skelton and Ozzie Nelson. He also was not afraid to experiment using the series slot for classic "murder" stories such as "Othello."
The series continued to produce high-quality drama, though there were many repeats as well as borrowing of scripts from other radio shows. While a number of film actors continued to star occasionally, many of the stars were from radio and television since radio as a dramatic art form was beginning to lose its popularity and budgets were tightened.
The show was on the air for a little over twenty years beginning in January, 1942 and was rarely pre-empted. There were 947 performances. Nearly all (approximately 895) are available to collectors. When SUSPENSE left the air, radio was never to see the likes of such a series again. Now the great medium of radio where imagination can run free has been reduced to the occasional brilliant drama airing sporadically in some corner of the world. SUSPENSE was a golden moment in a golden age. A moment when the thrill of the nightime led the listener along the path of intrigue, horror and dangerous adventure.
Permission for use granted by Jim Widner
NOTE: Updated Release! Version 2.0. Now 36 CDs worth of Suspense! Additional versions of shows plus upgraded sound quality. (06-Dec-2012)
NOTE: Updated Release! Version 1.1. Minor changes only, and only in CD #01 -- all 28 other CDs are the same as in Version 1.0. Updates on CD #01 include an updated Acknowledgement file and a correction in the name of a Transcription Disk image. No MP3 file changes in this release. (22-Jun-2011)
OTRR Certification Information:
Series Name: Suspense Certification Status: OTRR Certified Accurate Certification Date: October 15, 2012 Certification Version: Version 2 Number of CDs: 36
From the Old Time Radio Researchers Group. See "Note" Section below for more information on the OTRR.
It contains the most complete and accurate version of this series in the best sound possible at the time of creation. An updated version will be issued if more episodes or better sounding ones become available.
If you are interested in preserving Old Time Radio (OTR), you may wish to join the Old Time Radio Researchers Group at Yahoo.
Relax, listen, and enjoy!
OTRR Certified Accurate -- A series that is Certified Accurate indicates that all the episodes are properly identified and labeled but that the series does not contain all known extant episodes.
OTRR Certified Complete -- A series that is Certified Complete is the highest level of certification available under the OTRR Certified Standards. This certification level implies that all the files in the series are Certified Accurate but also indicates that the series is as complete as possible – it includes all extant episodes.
OTRR Non-Certified -- A collection of shows that has not gone through the OTRR Certification process.
NOTE: There are no passwords for any of our ZIP files. If you are prompted for a password, before downloading the file again, try unzipping the file into a shorter full folder path name -- for example, unzip to "C:\" instead of "C:\Documents and Settings\your_Windows_ID\some_other_folder\". Sorry, some of our releases contain long folder and file names, which sometimes manifests itself on the Windows platform as prompting for a password for the ZIP file. Or try renaming the ZIP file itself to a shorter name before unzipping.
November 2, 2015 Subject:
A Gold Mine
First off, my heartfelt thanks go out to those who compiled these recordings. It must have been a real labor of love: the sound is better than I've heard on podcasts of the same programs.
CBS put tons of money into Suspense. You can hear the difference between Suspense and cheaper productions simply by listening to the music. Suspense had an entire orchestra; cheap fly-by-nights had an (offensive) organ. You can imagine which was more costly.
The quality of the stories, the acting, and the overall production of these radio plays is absolutely outstanding. There are very few I've heard that would be better left out of an archive (though there truly are some, as in any collection.) Taken as a whole, Suspense had a higher level of quality than any production on television or radio before or since.
Its demise in 1962 left a hole that will never be filled.
July 31, 2015 Subject:
Some upgrades and missing shows from 1943-1944
This page https://archive.org/details/SuspenseRoma43to44 has some missing or previously mislabeled. When Roma Wines started its sponsorship, it had two broadcasts of one script. The main broadcast was on Thursday, and then it was performed again on Monday for the west coast. There are more details on the site.
July 31, 2015 Subject:
Thanks for putting these all up here. OTR helps get me through the day and it is nice to have so much of such a great show all in one place.
March 6, 2015 Subject:
I agree that this is a great series, and a great compilation by the OTRR. Just to complete your list explaining the numbers in the file names, the five-digit number towards the end represents the file size in kilobytes. In your example, the '28455' means that the mp3 is 28,455KB.
If I had one wish here, it would be that when the OTRR releases a new version of a collection, they also release an 'upgrade' version for people who have already downloaded and burned the previous version. With smaller collections, it's not such a big deal, but I'm a little hesitant to download this 36-disc collection when I've already downloaded and burned the 29-disc Version 1. It would be nice to have another page with only the seven discs worth of new files. (Not a complaint, mind you, just a suggestion.)
March 4, 2015 Subject:
Love this show!
I am just amazed at the time and work that must have been involved in compiling these episodes. This clearly had to be a serious effort and it shows. These episodes are just so well done. The show too is absolutely one of the best in radio. This is a Hitchcockian type of series and I thoroughly enjoy it.
I'll agree with others on the clarity of the sound. It is remarkable how clear it is. It is also remarkable how organized the files are and how complete the extras are.
This is definitely a great effort someone went to in sharing this information. Many MANY thanks to him or her!
* Download the zip file but BEFORE unzipping, rename it to a short name. I named mine as Suspense01v2, Suspense02v2, etc. I had no problems opening them that way.
* The first zip file is an "extras" file with no official episodes. It's still a fun file and has lots of interviews, photos and more. Better than what comes with DVDs these days, I'll tell you that!
* The second zip file contains the first set of episodes. They are in date order. The first actual episode (skipping The Lodger) is named as such:
Suspense 420617 001 The Burning Court (128-44) 28455 30m00s
To translate, it means....
Series title: Suspense
Air date: 420617 (Note: many don't understand this dating system, but it's very easy, it is YYMMDD. That provides a computer sorting order and is a great system. In any case, this episode would have been aired on June 17th, 1942.)
Episode number: 001
Episode title: The Burning Court
Bit rate - Kilohertz: (144 - 44) Though it's probably 44.1.
Original compilers unique numbering system: 28455 (since the compiler is part of a database team, this is probably an ID number for that database)
Length: 30 minutes, zero seconds.
Now it's important to note that the files will sort in proper order. All have the name suspense and all have the computer sort date style. This means they will sort in the order that they were aired.
* Remember that depending upon your connection, the zip files may take a very long time to download. Alternatively, if you click the [contents] link, you can see a list of files within that zip file. You can download individual episodes that way if you only want to download a few at a time.
June 20, 2014 Subject:
Thanks For The Fine Work
This is a great collection with lots of extras.
November 20, 2013 Subject:
I first came across 'Suspense' whilst looking for something to listen to on iTunes when off from doing homework and I have to say I was hooked from the first episode. Sadly, they were not in order, nor was there any information or research to the extent that you have gone through on the episodes. These, however, are of the highest quality and I look forward to listening to them all, in order and with your research notes to go with them.
On another note, the advertisements are just as entertaining as the episodes themselves. They do get annoying though as one user wrote if you listen to too many in a row.
Thank you for putting so much time into collating these episodes. I really can't thank you enough.
November 9, 2013 Subject:
The "Golden Age of Radio" is not over.
As long as we can get and listen to Suspense, Escape, Gunsmoke, X minus One and Fibber McGee & Molly, the golden age continues. The ancient Egyptians believed that, as long as someone remembered your name, you still existed. Can anyone who has ever heard "Sorry Wrong Number" forget Suspense? Maybe, but I can't.
October 28, 2013 Subject:
I’ve listened to about 200 episodes so far - they’re fantastic! Better than books-on-tape for long car rides. The only criticism I have is the bell sound effect between acts can knock your socks off sometimes, but I might be able to fix that with the “replay gain” feature on my mp3 player? And the Roma Wine commercials get a bit tedious - but that's what happens when you "binge listen." For the record, I had no trouble downloading or unzipping any of the 36 files, both on a Windows 7 laptop and an XP desktop. I just followed the “extraction wizard.” I did have to re-download one of the files (#34) because I noticed that compressed folder was so much smaller than any of the others. Probably got interrupted during download (my internet connection is only 1.5 Mbs) but it was the correct size after the second attempt. Now I double check all of the downloads to make sure they weren’t interrupted. Once I unzipped the files, I did change the episode names to “episode # episode title” only – my little Sansa player doesn’t like the long file names. For some reason, Windows Media Player put some collections, like Philip Marlowe, into individual episode folders (which is a pain-in-the-neck when it comes to loading the files onto my mp3 player), thankfully, Suspense did not - I would have gone crazy if I had to move all those hundreds of episodes out of sub-folders! Thank you OTRR for all the work you’ve done to collect and verify these radio programs over the years.
WOW! I've been a huge fan of Suspense for years. I started collecting episodes by trading cassettes through the mail with other fans 15 years ago, and was thrilled when mp3 made it possible to download the entire series. That said, a lot of the mp3's I've been listening to had pretty crummy sound quality, and I'd just accepted that's the compromise I'd make. Until I heard these episodes. I really can't believe how good they sound. I knew OTRR created mp3's from the original transcription discs, but I hadn't expected such crisp, full sound from 70-year-old recordings. Well done, guys. I feel like I'm listening to these shows for the first time.
May 30, 2013 Subject:
If money isn't an issue . . . .
May 29, 2013 Subject:
has anyone managed to download any of the pages?
Individual files will play using the player, but you will be out of luck if you attempt to download any of the 36 CDs, at least I have been unable after months of attempts. I saw the note about the long file names being a problem, and I tried shortening the file names every way I could think of. I have not been able to get any of the items to unzip.
Suspense is a great program, you just won't be able to download anything except the individual shows. If anyone has any ideas please post for all to see.
November 8, 2012 Subject:
Movies in your head. Thanks for uploading these outstanding programs!
November 5, 2012 Subject:
I'm really enjoying these. Thank you so much to the person who uploaded them here! I only recently learned that people used to broadcast plays on the radio and now I'm hooked on this series and a couple of others. Now I only watch TV for the news. This is better quality entertainment than those cheesy reality shows I was watching.
May 29, 2012 Subject:
Suspense Good Audio Quality
I've found the Suspense series on Archive to be of excellent quality. I'm assuming most, if not, all the shows were done live or live to disc recordings. It would have been difficult to match audio quality to do second takes with analog disc recording because the additional take insert would result in an obvious change of quality, unless the show was recorded on a vertical transcription. But then to get the insert point would be nerve-wracking.
Can someone verify then that most of show done before the start of audio tape were done live or live to disc recording for air play?
Thanks, too, to Jim Widner for his outstanding Suspense background writeup! My email is "firstname.lastname@example.org."
February 25, 2012 Subject:
I have never listened to Suspense before until a friend recommended i listen to a few episodes,well what a great surprise.An absolutely fantastic show i would recommend that others have listen to.To the person or persons who uploaded this, my eternal gratitude thank you very much.
November 14, 2011 Subject:
It's amazing the quality recording found here. I am astonished!
If you like Suspense, you need to download these.
July 17, 2011 Subject:
My (OUR) Thanks for your efforts
I have been a big fan of the Suspense OTR for some time now. Thank you so much for priving us (me) the best collection of Suspense OTR available today.
I love it.
Thank You Thank You and Thank You
You deserve a 6 Star for sure
June 17, 2011 Subject:
Thank God for the OTRRG
I agree with Poe, I've always been just a moderate fan of Suspense since most of the episodes prior to the release of this collection have not been in the best of shape and such. But after listening to a couple dozen of this newly released version of the show I can personally vouch that I am starting to see the light on why so many have praised this fantastic radio series!
May 29, 2011 Subject:
Suspense has never been a show that I was particularly fond of, but I went ahead and gave it another go, and combined with the great quality of this particular set, I'm beginning to reconsider that position.
May 28, 2011 Subject:
Thanks for this Excellent series
I already have suspense but I'm downloading these because of the superior quality. I really appreciate OTRR for the time they spend keeping OTR alive. Suspense is one of my all time favorites, right up there with Gunsmoke. Let's just hope the crooked Radio Spirits company doesn't try to get this removed. Don't give into them Archive, these shows are public domain for all to enjoy!
May 24, 2011 Subject:
This is a magnificent contribution to OTR. The audio quality is fantastic, especially compared to the previously available versions on Archive.org
We radio fans owe a debt of gratitude to all who made this wonderful collection possible.
In content and presentation, this is a joyous, rich delight that will last through the years.
May 24, 2011 Subject:
Suspense is excellent!
My apologies, CD 1 is so filled with fantastic bonus materials that the episode files don't start until CD 2. Now I can get started enjoying every one of these programs. Thanks much!
May 22, 2011 Subject:
I've been waiting for the OTRRG to release a Suspense set from the first. While I used to have a fairly comprehensive set of Suspense episodes, they were lost to the sands of time. Probably the greatest "old-time" radio show of all time in my opinion.